Cover image for John Glenn : a memoir
John Glenn : a memoir
Glenn, John, 1921-2016.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
x, 422 pages, 14 unnumbered pages of plates ; illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E840.8.G54 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E840.8.G54 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E840.8.G54 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
E840.8.G54 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
E840.8.G54 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
E840.8.G54 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
E840.8.G54 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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He was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. Nearly four decades later, as the world's oldest astronaut, his courage riveted a nation. But these two historic events only bracket a life that covers the sweep of an extraordinary century. In this engrossing book, John Glenn tells the story of his unique life--one lived at the center of a momentous time in history by a man who helped shape that history. He is the kind of hero who resists being called a hero. And yet his exploits in the service of his country, his dedication to family and friends, and his rock-ribbed traditional values have made this small-town boy from the Midwest a true American icon. John Glenn's autobiography spans the seminal events of the twentieth century. It is a story that begins with his childhood in New Concord, Ohio, in the aftermath of World War I. It was there that he learned the importance of family, community, and patriotism. Glenn saw firsthand the ravages of the Depression and learned that determination, hard work, and teamwork could overcome any adversity. These were the values he carried with him as a Marine fighter pilot during World War II and into the skies over Korea, for which he would be decorated for his courage, dedication, and sacrifice. Glenn flew missions with men he would never forget, from baseball great Ted Williams to little-known heroes who would never return to their families. Always a gifted flier, it was during the war that he contemplated the unlimited possibilities of aviation and its next frontiers: speed and space. John Glenn takes us into the cockpits of the experimental planes and spacecraft he flew to experience the pulse-pounding excitement of the early days of jet aviation, including his record-setting transcontinental flight in an F8U Crusader in 1957, and then on to his selection for the Project Mercury program in 1959. We see the early days of NASA, where he first served as a backup pilot for astronauts Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom and helped refine some of the initial cockpit and control designs for the Apollo program. In 1962 Glenn piloted the Mercury-Atlas6 Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first manned orbital mission of the United States. Then came several years in international business, followed by a twenty-four-year career as a U.S. senator--and in 1998 a return to space for his remarkableDiscovery mission at the age of seventy-seven. This extraordinary book captures the unique alchemy that brings a man to the forefront of his time. Married to a woman he first met when they were both toddlers, known for his integrity, common sense, and leadership in the Senate, John Glenn tells a story that we must hear. For this narrative of steadfastness, devotion, courage, and honor is both a great adventure tale and a source of powerful inspiration for an age that needs John Glenn's values more than ever before.

Author Notes

John Herschel Glenn Jr. was born in Cambridge, Ohio on July 18, 1921. In 1939, he enrolled at Muskingum College to study chemistry, but took flying lessons on the side. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he signed up for the Naval Aviation cadet program and after pilot training opted to join the Marines. As a fighter pilot, he flew 59 combat missions in the Pacific earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses. During the Korean War, he flew 90 combat missions. He later became a military test pilot in the early days of supersonic flight. In 1957, he made the first transcontinental supersonic flight, piloting an F8U-1 Crusader from Los Angeles to New York in record time: 3 hours 23 minutes 8.4 seconds.

He was selected as an original Mercury 7 astronaut. On February 20, 1962, he became the first American to orbit Earth. President John F. Kennedy thought him too valuable as a hero to risk losing in an accident and suggested that NASA not give him a new flight assignment. Glenn resigned from the astronaut corps in 1964. He became an executive of the Royal Crown Cola Company. In 1974, he became a Democratic senator from Ohio and went on to serve four full terms. As a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, he developed the medical rationale used in arguing his case for a return flight in space. On October 29, 1998, he became the oldest person to go into space at the age of 77.

His memoir, John Glenn: A Memoir was written with Nick Taylor and published in 1999. During his lifetime, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He died on December 8, 2016 at the age of 95.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Glenn's utterly plainspoken yet thrilling autobiography will put a lump in readers' throats. The astronaut and four-term U.S. senator from Ohio seems to embody the best old-fashioned American values of integrity, personal discipline, love of country, honesty, courage and responsibility. At 37, Glenn was a frustrated navy bureaucrat stuck in a Washington desk job. Just four years later, in 1962, he became the first American to orbit the earth, piloting the Friendship 7 capsule and restoring national pride during the space race with the Soviet Union. Before that flight, he deadpanned to his wife: "Hey, honey, don't be scared. Remember, I'm just going down to the corner store to get a pack of gum." Glenn says he acquired a sense of unbounded possibility from his mother, an elementary schoolteacher, and his father, a coal-shoveling railroad worker who squeaked through the Depression and built up his own plumbing supplies company. Glenn's exploits as a pilot during WWII and Korea, as well as his high-altitude feats as a test pilot in the 1950s, are re-created with hair-raising immediacy in a gripping first-person narrative written with an assist from Taylor (whose books include the memoir A Necessary End). On a personal note, Glenn writes affectingly of his 56-year marriage to organist Annie Castor, with whom he played as a toddler; the strains of being a military family often having to move on short notice; his friendship with Robert Kennedy. The book closes with a heart-stopping account of his momentous return to space at age 77 in 1998 aboard space shuttle Discovery, an event that helped redefine the meaning of "old age." Told without an ounce of pretension, this is a memorable autobiography by a man who embraced public life and held it with a unique blend of Roman virtue and American confidence. BOMC main selection. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

"A boy could not have had a more idyllic early childhood than I did," writes Glenn, but his memories of it would have remained private but for the intense interest when he blasted into space again last year. This reprise of his fame induced him to reconsider his disinclination to write a memoir, so here it is. In it, airplanes, combat, wife Annie, and spaceflight crowd out that part of his life spent in politics, a sensible decision because though the former command the public's unadultered admiration, the latter inevitably attracts mixed opinions. But they are connected. The first steps in Glenn's aeronautical career began with his fascination with cars and planes in Ohio. Immensely proud of his father, a World War I veteran, Glenn enlisted in the army air wing after Pearl Harbor. He finagled a transfer to the marines, whose esprit de corps he admired and whose fighter planes, instead of the army's slow transports, he was burning to fly. He got his chance in the Marshall Islands, survived enemy flak, and returned stateside to the itinerant life of the military. Making the uniform his career, Glenn reveals his ambition through description of his assignments. Apparently becoming the Corps' commandant was his goal. He talked his way into flying jet combat in Korea, and these passages, which feature an appearance by the "splendid splinter," Ted Williams, as Glenn's wingman, will be the most thrilling to readers of an aviational bent. In comparison, the account of Project Mercury is flat, technocratic, with little reflection on the mass-media machine that elevated his celebrity over all other astronauts'. Readers will opine on Glenn's politics according to their wont, but nostalgia for his uncomplicated courage and patriotism will create waiting lists for his reminiscences. --Gilbert Taylor

Library Journal Review

John Glenn's life story reads like a Frank Capra movie: Small-town Ohio boy weathers the Depression nurtured by conservative patriotic values, marries his high school sweetheart, flies combat missions in two wars, is selected as one of the original Mercury astronauts, becomes an instant national hero as the first American to orbit the earth, is elected to the Senate, and, after serving for four terms, improbably returns to space aboard the Shuttle at age 77. Glenn's account of his storybook life rings as true as his All-American Boy Scout image that Tom Wolfe caricatured in The Right Stuff. Yet even Glenn's long career was not totally immune from the hint of scandal, as he recounts his tangential role in the Keating S&L scandal. Still, in the current national climate, Glenn's account of his life and times provides a refreshing contrast to the public cynicism that all too often attaches to public figures. Recommended for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/99.]√ĄThomas J. Frieling, Bainbridge Coll. Lib., GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-In his memoir, Glenn takes listeners through the grueling tests and preparations for the flight, as well as through the enormous differences between his solo flight of just under five hours in 1962 and his voyage of 36 years later as part of the team of seven aboard the shuttle Discovery. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



PATRIOTISM FILLED THE AIR of New Concord, the small eastern Ohio town where I grew up. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Armistice Day were flag-waving holidays of parades and salutes to the United States and to the soldiers, living and dead, who had fought for freedom and democracy. My father was one of those soldiers. He served in France during World War I, delivering artillery shells to the front on trucks and horse-drawn caissons, and he came home partially deaf from a cannon blast but otherwise unharmed. He also was a bugler. He blew the bugle for reveille and taps, for mail call and mess call, and when the flag was raised. At home, on those patriotic days that I remember, Dad was again called upon to play the bugle. He marched in the parade formations when the local veterans from the Thirty-seventh Ohio Division marched down Main Street on Armistice Day, and played the colors when they raised the flag at the American Legion hall at the end of the parade. But the bugling I remember best was the taps he played on Memorial Day. It was still called Decoration Day then, and families dressed in their Sunday best would regather at the town cemetery after the parade, carrying bundles of gladioli, irises, and peonies, red, white, and blue the dominating colors. The marching soldiers also would regather. They presented arms and fired three volleys in salute as the flags flanking the Stars and Stripes were dipped. Then my father raised his war-battered brass bugle and played those drawn-out, mournful notes in memory of the soldiers killed in action, and the sound drifted across the gravestones and sent chills up my spine. As the last notes faded into silence the families of the soldiers and descendants of men who had died in other wars moved among the gravestones and placed flowers on the graves. We had a town band in New Concord. I was nine or ten when I joined the band and learned to play the trumpet. At home, Dad taught me the military calls. And one day after I learned to play them well enough, he came to me with a request. "Bud," he said, "Decoration Day is coming up, and I want you to play taps with me." I hardly knew what to say. Dad was my hero. He had fought in the war. The playing of taps was a special moment in the ceremony, a final, haunting valediction for the men who had made the supreme sacrifice. To play it was a great responsibility. Dad obviously had a lot of confidence in me. That meant a great deal, but it meant even more to participate as a young boy in the remembrance of men who had fought and died for our country. It was something bigger than I was, something momentous. Dad and I practiced at home as the end of May approached. He played in the kitchen, and I stood in another room. When the day came, I was a little scared. Before, I had always watched the parade with Mother and my sister, Jean, or marched in the band. But this spring day I went alone to the cemetery, ahead of the others. I walked across the sloping grounds, and waited out of sight in the woods where the terrain fell away beyond the graves. Soon I heard "Present arms" as the soldiers' honor guard re-formed. Peeking through the leaves, I saw them raise their guns to fire the three volleys in salute. Then my father lifted his bugle, and the first sad notes rose in the spring air. The first phrase ended, and I was ready. I put the trumpet to my lips and echoed the clear notes. We played through taps like that, my trumpet echoing his bugle phrase by phrase, until the last notes died. That impressed me then, as a boy, and it's impressive to me to this day. Echo taps still gives me chills. It recalls the patriotic feeling of New Concord, the pride and respect everyone in the town felt for the United States of America. Love of country was a given. Defense of its ideals was an obligation. The opportunity to join in its quests and explorations was a challenge not only to fulfill a sacred duty, but to join a joyous adventure. That feeling sums up my childhood. It formed my beliefs and my sense of responsibility. Everything that came after that just seemed to follow naturally. A boy could not have had a more idyllic early childhood than I did. Sometimes it seems to me that Norman Rockwell must have taken all his inspiration from New Concord, Ohio. My playmates were freckle-faced boys and girls with pigtails. We played without fear in backyards and streams and endless green fields, and climbed trees to learn the limits of our daring. The adults--most of them--ere concerned and reliably caring, and we respected them. Boys learned the company of men--the way they talked and held themselves, and their concerns-at the town barbershop and hunting in the woods. Saturday afternoons were for fifteen-cent sundaes at the Ohio Valley Dairy (nuts on top cost an extra nickel), Sunday mornings were for Sunday school and church, and Sunday afternoons were for family dinners and outings. These were the orderly rituals of my early years, and I never doubted even once that I was loved. New Concord is the hometown I remember, but I was born a few miles away in Cambridge, in my parents' white frame house. The date was July 18, 1921. A doctor attended the birth. I weighed nine pounds and had my mother's red hair. My father, John Herschel Glenn, had been home from the battlefields of France for two and a half years. He and my mother, a schoolteacher whose maiden name was Clara Sproat, had married just before he went to war. Mother was a very beautiful woman in some of the pictures made when she was young. She had a vivacious smile and lustrous hair, although its auburn tones were lost in the old photographs. They had met at the East Union Presbyterian Church near his parents' farm outside of Claysville. The farm was eighty or so acres, too small for anything but corn, garden vegetables, and a few hogs and chickens. She was from another little town not far away, Lore City. He had been seeing her for about two years, and I imagine he didn't want to let her get away. She rode a train to Montgomery, Alabama, where he was training at Camp Sheridan, and they got married on May 25, 1918. Two weeks later he left on a troopship from Newport News, Virginia. Dad was twenty-two years old when he went away, with a sixth-grade education acquired in a one-room country school. When he came back, he had seen the world and was by all accounts a different man. His roots still were deep in the farms and small towns of eastern Ohio, in the values of a mutually supportive community. But his perspective had broadened, and he saw the need to know and understand the world beyond the cornfields. He worked as a fireman on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad when he came home. Mother continued to teach elementary school in Cambridge. The B&O's locomotives were coal-fired. Dad shoveled coal on the westbound trains until they reached Newark or Columbus. It was hot, dirty work, constantly swinging between a coal tender and a firebox that glowed like the mouth of Hades. He'd go to sleep exhausted in a railroad workers' barracks, and the next day do it again in a train headed home. The work was hard, but that wasn't what he minded. He was gone about half the time, and it stuck in his craw that he had to be away from home and his beautiful young wife that much. So he quit the railroad and what was then a lifetime job with guaranteed security. Times were good, there was quite a bit of building going on, and Dad decided to take up the plumbing trade. His apprenticeship took us from Cambridge to Zanesville and back again. By August 1923 he knew his way around a pipe wrench pretty well, and joined up with Bertel Welch, a plumber in New Concord. I was two years old. The move to New Concord was a homecoming of sorts for Mother. She had attended Muskingum College there, riding the train from Lore City through Cambridge to New Concord and back home every day until she earned the two-year degree required of schoolteachers at that time. Her father had been a teacher, too. New Concord was smaller than Cambridge. Even when the population doubled with students during the school year, it was barely larger than two thousand. But New Concord was no backwater. Muskingum's concerts, art exhibits, speeches, theatrical productions, and debates were open to all. Townspeople could use its library. It was a United Presbyterian Church school, and some of the housing on campus was set aside for church missionaries home on sabbatical from their work overseas. At any given time, there were families who had spent time in China, Africa, and South America, and the missionaries gave talks on their experiences. Dad's partnership didn't last. When it ended, he rented a little store at the east end of Main Street and hung out his shingle as the Glenn Plumbing Company. Mother had stopped teaching after I was born, and once he opened the business she watched the shop and sold plumbing supplies while he was out working on the jobs. They worked as a team. Mother and Dad quickly fell in with four other couples in New Concord. They called themselves the Twice Five Club. The Twice Fives got together monthly for a dinner at one house or another. The hosts would cook the main dish, which was usually some kind of casserole, and everybody else would come with their kids in tow and something to put on the table. One of the other couples was Homer and Margaret Castor. Homer--Dr. Castor--was the town dentist. The Castors had arrived in New Concord about the same time my parents did. This, too, was a homecoming. Doc Castor had grown up in Otsego, near New Concord, and had attended Muskingum and then the Ohio State University dental school, where he got his degree. He had planned to start a children's dental practice in the state capital before deciding he preferred the small-town life. They had a daughter, Anna Margaret, whom everyone called Annie. She was about a year older than I was. They put us in a playpen together, and she was part of my life from the time of my first memory. Excerpted from John Glenn: A Memoir by John Glenn, Nick Taylor All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. ix
Part 1 New Concordp. 1
Part 2 Warp. 55
Part 3 Flightp. 151
Part 4 Project Mercuryp. 191
Part 5 Public Lifep. 301
Part 6 Back to Spacep. 367
Epiloguep. 407
Acknowledgmentsp. 409
Indexp. 413